Women’s World Cup hosts urge FIFA not to sign Saudi sponsor
GENEVA (AP) — Women’s World Cup co-hosts Australia and New Zealand on Wednesday urged FIFA not to sign a sponsor agreement with Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority where “women’s rights remain severely restricted”.
Leaders of the two national football federations have warned in a letter to FIFA, including President Gianni Infantino, that unilaterally sealing “Visit Saudi” sponsorship could “severely tarnish the reputation” of the 32-nation tournament which begins in July.
Such a confrontation between a World Cup host and FIFA is unprecedented in recent history and should draw more attention to Saudi Arabia’s so-called “sportswashing” investments.
“We are writing to express our deep disappointment and concern at the news of Visit Saudi’s apparent appointment as sponsor,” Chris Nikou from Australia and Joanna Wood from New Zealand wrote in the letter to FIFA seen on Wednesday. by the Associated Press.
“We cannot express strongly enough the potential repercussions and fallout that could result from this decision.
“Australia and New Zealand, both as sovereign nations and as football associations, have for decades placed the highest importance on gender equality and have sought to promote these ideals in the world,” the letter reads, reminding FIFA that their governments have invested hundreds of dollars. million in the football event.
Tournament organizers and government officials from both countries were not consulted, they claimed.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Saudi Arabia has made progress in women’s football over the past three years by establishing a national team and a national league, in addition to preparing a bid to host the 2026 Asian Women’s Cup.
In Saudi society, however, women’s freedoms are limited by strict male guardianship laws.
The “Visit Saudi” campaign was among more than 30 sponsors of the Men’s World Cup in Qatar last year.
FIFA has not officially announced the deal which became evident through pitchside advertisements when the games started in November.
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